TMA Physicians Award Teachers Who Inspire Students’ Love of Science(2)

May 17, 2013

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) awarded six Texas science teachers with the 2013 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. First-place prizes were awarded today to elementary, middle, and high school teachers at the association’s annual conference in San Antonio. These educators help create tomorrow’s physicians by inspiring students in the field of science.

Martha McLeod of Fulton 4-5 Learning Center in Rockport, Mary Jean Tykoski of Cooper Junior High School in Wylie, and Jodie Deinhammer of Coppell High School in Coppell are this year’s elementary, middle, and high school winners in the competition (see winner bios below). TMA awards each recipient a $5,000 cash prize, and their school receives a $2,000 resource grant towards its science programs. 

Second-place winners are Liberty Heise of The Girls’ School of Austin in Austin, Dana Clark of Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School in Dallas, and Anna Loonam of Bellaire High School in Bellaire. Schools of the second-place winners’ receive a $500 resource grant to enhance science classroom learning.

According to the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 report, only 29 percent of Texas eighth-graders and 29 percent of fourth-graders have achieved proficiency in science. The TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching can help improve these numbers by recognizing innovative teachers and providing them resources to continue motivating students.

Applicants went through a two-stage evaluation process. First, finalists were determined by a 12-member team of science professionals from The University of Texas Charles A. Dana Center who volunteered their time and curriculum expertise to the program. The second stage of judging was conducted by a panel of physicians serving on the TMA Educational Scholarship, Loan, and Awards Committee.

Martha McLeod — Elementary School Winner 

Ms. McLeod teaches fourth and fifth grade students at the Fulton 4-5 Learning Center in Rockport. She earned her bachelor of science degree from Texas A&M University and her post-graduate teacher certification specializing in biology from West Texas State University. “[Mrs.McLeod] truly is the dedicated, creative, and hard-working teacher that all teachers should strive to be,” said Jeremy Saegert, principal of Fulton 4-5 Learning Center. “I embrace teaching as an opportunity to inspire and empower students to feel personally changed by the experience of learning,” said Ms. McLeod. Her students look forward to taking care of a wide variety of class pets such as hedgehogs and snakes and  take pride in joining her competitive birding team or volunteering for the local aquarium. The National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF) inducted Mrs. McLeod into its NTHF Class of 2013. Each year only five teachers across the country are selected for the honor.

Mary Jean Tykoski — Middle School Winner 

Ms. Tykoski teaches eighth grade science at Cooper Junior High School in Wylie. She earned her bachelor of science degree in education from the University of Michigan. Her love of science was influenced at very early age by her father, and she constantly read science books while other kids were playing. Her students’ parents and colleagues describe her as a great motivator and say she is always preparing her students for their future. Principal Tami Nauyokas of Cooper Junior High School said, “Her positive attitude and love of science and children are reflected in the outstanding quality of science instruction that she has worked to develop and promote in her classroom.”

Jodie Deinhammer — High School Winner 

Ms. Deinhammer teaches 11th- and 12th-grade anatomy and physiology classes at Coppell High School. She graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of North Texas and is working towards her master’s of science in education at Texas Christian University. “She is a master at guiding her pupils through their learning journey in biology,” said Jeff Turner, superintendent of Coppell Independent School District. Ms. Deinhammer said, “For me motivating a student to want to learn is much more powerful than watching them memorize basic facts that they won’t recall in a week anyway.” Her students agree that she is a great motivator and mentor, and creates a smooth transition from high school to college through her teaching.

The TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching are supported by the TMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of TMA, thanks to an endowment established by Dr. and Mrs. Ernest C. Butler of Austin; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, which has generously supported this program for nine years; Dr. Gerard and Mrs. Carrie Ventura of Nacogdoches, who have supported the program for two years; and the Potter Randall County Medical Society in Amarillo.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 47,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. TMA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the association and raises funds to support the public health and science priority initiatives of TMA and the family of medicine.


Contact: Pam Udall (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 413-6807; email:
Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email:  

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